20 lessons I carry with me from my 20’s

“Let the world kiss you, sister. Let the moment kiss the most raw and tender spot in your heart until you cannot help but surrender, open.” ~Chameli Ardagh

A few weeks ago I quietly crossed the threshold into my thirties. While this felt intentional for me personally, in many regards we live in a culture that lacks rites of passage, whether it be the entry point to adulthood, sacred union, childbirth or becoming an elder. There is also a near obsession with youth and appearing ageless, which is really illogical if we take the time to consider it.

Looking deeper into these cultural narratives, there are some recurrent themes for the decade known as the twenties. For many, these years represent a coming of age or a discovering of oneself. There is an awareness of independence, trial and error or education in the larger context of life, not just institution based higher knowledge. I know I felt the presence of these elements in my own journey.

On the other, sometimes overlooked, side, there is some sense of survival in this decade of life or the desire to make it in the world, which I fear has a lot to do with socio-cultural conditioning. It seems that culturally in the USA many feel that they survive their twenties only to long for them later. It’s possible for me too, to imagine this point of view. I imagine every decade of life comes with both joy and sorrow, light and dark.

However, it’s also paradoxical and doesn’t really serve the greater good for individuals or our collective evolution to continue to be youth obsessed and conditioned to go through life based on survival needs or lacking in support for integration through transitions.

To begin to shift these belief systems for myself as I sat on a transatlantic flight on my 30th birthday, I re-traced each year of my twenties mining the gems and touching into each embodied version of myself. As I did this, I journaled over 50 lessons and realizations from this decade of lived experiences.

So, in effort to contribute to a culture shift or dialogue around our collective aging and survival narratives, I’m sharing 20 of those embodied lessons with you today.

1. Love comes easy, when we start with ourselves.

This only reveals itself with patience and a willingness to meet yourself where you are, again and again. The only love affair that truly lasts a lifetime is the one you have with yourself.

2. Travel opens doorways in the heart and mind that we didn’t know existed.

Travel is not for the faint of heart. Trust me, I traveled to over 20 countries in the past decade. It can be equal parts challenge and excitement. It can force us to evaluate our cultural baggage and it holds the potential to open us to new ways of being in the world.

3. Developing healthy boundaries is a lifelong journey.

This is about twenty lessons in one. Really, we are all learning when it comes to boundaries in relationships with other people and even within our inner relationships to different layers of our being, our public vs. private life, our family or work life and on it goes. It’s ok that we don’t get it perfect. What matters is being in the process.

4. I may never feel like I have arrived, yet every day I arrive fully.

There will not be a day when it all comes together, so to speak. There may be many moments that things seem to make sense or fall into place, and that is the beauty of life. We can show up fully as we are now, not knowing what we might become in the future.

5. Un-learning and deconstructing are far more useful than learning and building on a shaky foundation.

In order to learn new ways of being in the world, we first need to hold a compassionate gaze at our current belief systems and societal norms. What is working? What isn’t? And ultimately, what is it time to let go of in order to learn something new?

6. Progress and success are arbitrary, unless explained in terms of the heart.

So many people, especially in this digital era, will try to convince us that they know the secret to success or perhaps the definition. Maybe that input is useful. Often; however, it’s not. Progress or success or evolution are all terms that require deep listening from within in order to discover our own unique definition and the way to embody that.

7. Love calls all beings home to the Divine Mother.

Many are aware of a global awakening happening on the planet around the Divine Feminine. We see this unfolding in a myriad of ways, from increased ecological concerns to the rise in awareness around issues related to women. Ultimately, I believe this is waking us up to a path of greater love and devotion for our Earth and all beings living here, calling us all home to ourselves.

8. The unconscious will find a way to the surface.

Unconscious patterns or habits living in the shadow self can remain there for years. Or we can compassionately approach these aspects of our being-ness for deeper integration and wholeness. Either way, they will find a way out. Consciously, it’s a process of evolution. Unconsciously, it’s hurtful to self and others.

9. We create through the feeling, embodied level in life, not with the mind alone.

The secret’s out on the once popular The Secret. Creating new patterns or manifesting our desires cannot be done with the mind alone. Of course, using the mind can be very powerful and a worthwhile effort. And, without the inherent wisdom of the body, we can only get so far. Creating a practice that cultivates our desired feelings changes the game when it comes to co-creating with the universe.

10. The elements in nature speak to those willing to listen.

We cannot underestimate the value of spending time in nature, quietly listening to what is present. We are part of this larger ecosystem and even beyond. The wise ones trust the many layers of sounds and voices of the natural world.

11. Learning other languages teaches us a new way to understand and view the world.

The complexity of languages are truly fascinating. When we open our mind to new words or grammar structures, the brain literally creates new pathways for that to happen. With these newly imprinted neural pathways, we open ourselves to unique possibilities for explaining and understanding the world around us.

12. Healing is a journey deep inside the self that holds infinite potential.

When we seek healing for any discomfort or dis-ease in the body, mind or spirit, we may begin by looking outside ourselves. We may try pills, potions, other people’s opinions, professional advice, alternative medicine, dietary changes and on it goes. These can all play an important role in returning to ease and vitality. Yet, ultimately, it is only in the body’s ability to assimilate these external forces and align with our inner healing capacity that lasting healing can occur.

13. Living our values is far more worthwhile than talking about them.

Acting in the world from a place of compassion and joy is more beneficial than talking about it. Whatever our values are, embodying them may not be easy, but it is so worth it.

14. Stress is in part a learned reaction to life experiences. There are other responses available.

We are learning how to react or respond to life experiences from the time we leave the womb, and likely before that. While the stress response can serve us in certain ways or in dangerous situations, it’s not meant to be our default. We learned how to be stressed, even if we can’t recall when that was. We can also un-learn the pattern of coming from a reactive state by pausing, taking a breath and making a effort to respond consciously.

15. Nature’s rhythms unlock the secrets to vibrant health for women.

Women are cyclical beings. Our cycles mirror the phases of the moon and we can learn so much about ourselves by tuning into this natural rhythm.

16. Home is a feeling, not a place.

Home can be anywhere in the world when we feel comfortable within ourselves and with those around us. While many places can be considered home, the most important is simply feeling at home in the body.

17. We are called to certain places on this Earth for very specific reasons that are beyond rational thought.

Intuition has a way of guiding us to where we need to go. It leads us to the experiences we need to have for our own evolution. Trust that calling within.

18. All cultures are beautifully unique and exactly the same simultaneously.

For all the countries I’ve visited or lived in, there are similarities and differences. Like individuals, cultures have quirks, shadow aspects, and also radiant beauty and grace. The basics of human connection, love and kindness are universal.

19. Some love stories extend infinitely in both directions.

There are bound to be people, places and creative endeavors that seem to capture our hearts. There is no sense in trying to understand these stories and love affairs with the mind. Dive into these timeless adventures of the soul.

20. Often breath is the answer we are longing for.

Regardless of whether we are striving to respond to a situation instead of react, trying to live our values or be with our unconscious, breath is the common denominator that gives space and life for the rest of it to unfold.

Here’s to thriving in whatever decade you find yourself!

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